conceptual poetics

The artist's book as idea

Book artists who print on demand

Travis Shaffer Reworded
Travis Shaffer, Reworded (Self-Published, Print-on-demand book, BLURB, 2013). Image: Travis Shaffer

My last commentary began by asking what a print-on-demand artist's book might look like and explored works of conceptual writing that use the trade paperback form as a central aspect of their poetics.

I'd like to ask the question again, and offer a somewhat different print-on-demand approach:

So what might a conceptual, print-on-demand artist's book look like?

It might resemble Travis Shaffer's work.

Whose speech? Who speaks?

Vanessa Place’s “Miss Scarlett”

Protesters picket the movie Gone with the Wind
Protesters picket the movie Gone with the Wind (1940s), Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Over on the Poetry Foundation, The Harriet Blog has a write up of my recent post on Vanessa Place’s “White Out” of Gone with the Wind. The Harriet Blog also notes Place’s current retyping of the novel on Twitter, and Brian Reed’s discussion of Place’s “Miss Scarlett” (also an iteration of Gone with the Wind). In a recent talk (which you can watch here), I discussed the relationship between Place’s “White Out” and “Miss Scarlett.” I read “Miss Scarlett” somewhat differently from Reed, as I outline below.

In “Miss Scarlett,” Place appropriates Gone with the Wind in a more overtly discomforting way than in her “White Out”:

Dey’s fightin’ at Jonesboro, Miss Scarlett!

Dey say our gempmums is gittin’ beat.

Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen ter

Maw an’ Poke? Oh, Gawd, Miss Scarlett! Whut’ll happen

ter us effen de Yankees gits hyah? Oh,

Gawd—Ah ain’ nebber seed him, Miss Scarlett.

No’m, he ain’ at de horsepittle.

Let’s note (with Brian Reed) that a poem like “Miss Scarlett” is written for our digital world of searchable copies. Because of these digital copies, readers can type a phrase into Google and quickly locate the source text: in this case, all the words spoken the maid Prissy in a section of Gone with the Wind.

Conceptualist ostranenie: A dialogue between Derek Beaulieu (Canada) and Natalia Fedorova (Russia)

10 August 2012

The following is an occassional dialogue composed for this occassion. Derek Beaulieu and Natalia Fedorova may not have met apart from the artifice of this conversation. Nonetheless, there is a conceit of some commonality of interest and points of divergence. This is part two of the series.

Derek Beaulieu Both my concrete poetry and my conceptual writing focus on distancing myself from subjective representation. I am fascinated by Place and Fitterman’s idea of the Sobject and by Goldsmith’s proclamation that “I am interested in subjectivity, just not my own.” Goldsmith argues that Conceptual writing is only the 2nd truly international writing movement, coming approximately 50 years after the formulation of Concrete Poetry.

Natalia Fedorova Sobjectivity translated into the post-soviet reality will read: “re-politicization of the form” as a key tendency in reanimating conceptualist ostranenie of the language from the official propaganda. History is recycling itself in the absurd Kafka-esque Pussy Riot trial that calls for the same methods today as in the Soviet times.

Notes on Conceptualisms: a dialogue between Vanessa Place and Tania Ørum

22 February 2012-22 June 2012

The following dialogue was composed partially in-person and partially via e-mail. The initial conversation was a symposium held at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts between Tania Ørum and Vanessa Place, on the occassion of the Danish publication of Noter om konceptualismer (Notes on Conceptualisms). As this conversation was the impetus for the series, it made good sense to start here.

Tania Ørum  Notes on Conceptualisms is co-authored by Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman, so it seems appropriate to present it in a joint discussion. And since conceptual writing is an international phenomenon, it seems equally appropriate that the discussion should take place between an American writer and a European scholar.

Bill Freind on Goldsmith's "Day"

from Jacket #40 (late 2010)

I am writing a review of Kent Johnson’s Day although I haven’t read a word of it. That’s not a problem, since Johnson’s Day is identical to Kenneth Goldsmith’s Day, which is itself a transcription of an entire issue of The New York Times from left to right, ignoring the divisions between columns, articles and advertisements. In fact, Johnson’s Day is an actual copy of Goldsmith’s Day, with stickers of Johnson’s name covering Goldsmith’s name, as well as some jacket blurbs from Juliana Spahr, Christian Bök, and “Kenny” Goldsmith himself. Not surprisingly, the blurbs from Spahr and Bök were originally for Goldmith’s Day; the blurb attributed to Goldsmith is Johnson’s riff on various comments Goldsmith has made on Flarf and conceptual poetry.

However, I haven’t read Goldsmith’s Day either. Although I consider myself a big fan of his work, I’ve read almost none of it. (I made it through about 50 pages of Soliloquy, his transcription of everything he said over the course of a week, and thought it was brilliant.)

The idea of failure in constraint-based writing

On March 15, 2011, we celebrated the potential of literatures through the Oulipolooza, a Kelly Writers House-style celebration of all things Oulipo. The OuLiPo, or “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle” (workshop of potential literature), is a group of experimental French poets founded in 1960, devoted to exploring the potential of literature, language and freedom through the lenses of different constraints. Oulipolooza included readings about the Oulipo by Jean-Michel Rabaté and Katie Price, a reception full of Oulipo-inspired foods, and the launch of "An Oulipolooza": a collection of oulipian texts.

The revolution will be typewritten

Thanks to Darren Wershler-Henry whose recent tweet turned me on to The Boston Typewriter Orchestra. They are "a collective endeavor which engages in rhythmic typewriter manipulation combined with elements of performance, comedy and satire. BTO aims to entertain the masses while providing an outlet for the creative urges of its members. *BTO promises to protect customer confidentiality with the utmost vigilance while remaining irreverent at all times." Listen here and enjoy a new single, "The Revolution Will Be Typewritten."

"Goundhog Day"

A section of Kenneth Goldsmith's "The Weather"

A few years ago, when Kenny Goldsmith's book The Weather was still in draft--or should I say, was still being typewritten--he read the "Groundhog Day" section of it at the Writers House (for our annual "Mind of WinA few years ago, when Kenny Goldsmith's book The Weather was still in draft--or should I say, was still being typewritten--he read the "Groundhog Day" section of it at the Writers House (for our annual "Mind of Winter" event), and here's the audio recording: (mp3)

Listen to the recording and then read Marjorie Perloff's essay on The Weather, called "Moving Information". Here's a passage:

Take up The Weather as you might any other book, and you will soon find that what seems to be boring, straightforward, and incontrovertible fact is largely fiction. The book's division into four chapters, one for each season, is already an artifice, for of course we don't experience the seasons this way. Nothing happens on December 21st that couldn't just as well happen on December 20th, the last day of fall. The seasonal cycle, moreover, is, as David Antin notes in his jacket comment, presented as "a classical narrative," moving from the bitter freeze of Winter 2002 through a moderate New York spring, to the summer season of thunderstorms and hurricanes threatening the coast, to the autumn of World Series weather (fortunately, fairly dry), back to a winter that seems, at least so far, not as cold as the previous one. The larger narrative thus mimes the familiar myth of "in like a lion, out like a lamb."

we talk flarf

Nada Gordon, Kenny Goldsmith and Steve McLaughlin join me for the 33rd episode of PoemTalk, released today.

a book launch event in which the book was re-published

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